A $300,000 increase to arts, cultural and social grants proposed in next year’s city budget is being commended by Rob Gloor, the executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.
Gloor told city council during a meeting on the 2013 capital and operating budget this week that civic support for the arts is crucial to keep the sector stable.
“The increase is modest, but encouraging, and I personally hope that the increased funds would be directed to enhancing the existing programs that are providing excellent support to the sector and are under high demand,” he said.
According to the city’s budget documents, the new grant funding has not yet been allocated to any programs or organizations in the arts, cultural or social sectors. Staff are scheduled to bring recommendations to council on the grants in the first quarter of 2013.
Gloor noted there's strong demand for existing city grant programs that help to fund operating costs for arts organizations.
“What we’ve observed, especially at other levels of government, is sometimes when there’s new money, they want to create a sense of something special about it by creating a brand new program which requires additional management resources...rather than just looking at how the existing programs still need more resources," he said in a phone interview with the Straight. "So within the staffing and the processes already in place, you can simply have a greater capacity to fund, which is more important.”
Meanwhile, Non-Partisan Association councillor Elizabeth Ball is raising concerns about the level of funding specified for the arts in the budget.
“I understand that Vision has said they’ve maintained funding over the years, but when you just maintain, and you don’t come up with any new programs or anything that anticipate those needs in the community, what you’re actually doing is cutting,” she maintained.
“They announced with great fanfare that they were going to add $300,000 in new grant money to both culture and social grants, but those are completely different things with different needs, and both are valid—but there was no announcement as to what was going to culture,” she added. “How can organizations plan for anything more interesting than just survival?”
In his comments to council, Gloor noted the city's budget document recognizes the challenging environment arts and cultural organizations in Vancouver are facing, such as higher operating costs and low levels of funding from senior levels of government.
“Even with Vancouver’s strong level of support for arts and culture, it does not even come close to making up for the low levels of funding that B.C. organizations receive from the provincial and the federal government, compared to other provinces,” he said. “It’s very fortunate that the municipality is able to make this level of commitment, because anything less would probably result in destabilization of the sector.”
The budget report indicates the city plans to review its civic theatres business model and public arts funding “to address the shifts that the sector is experiencing.”
Vancouver city council will vote on the 2013 capital and operating budget on December 11.